Local Rotary clubs provide members with community speakers, and provide networking for local business and community leaders

Helen Keller’s famous quote, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,” is inspiring local Rotary Clubs to practice “Service above Self” by partnering with other clubs to provide service to ECHO Homeless Shelter in Paso Robles.

Rotary Clubs have recognized the increase in unsheltered people in the North County, which has been heavily influenced by the COVID pandemic and economic downturn. Many of these residents have turned to living in cars, or camping in unsafe areas. ECHO is a local organization supporting unsheltered families and residents with their Atascadero and Paso Robles locations.

The goal of ECHO is to empower people in San Luis Obispo who are unsheltered to make positive change by providing food, shelter, and supportive services. Many of the needs of this unsheltered population are things that sheltered residents take for granted. The local Rotary clubs of Cayucos, Atascadero, Paso Robles, and North County Rotaract have stepped up to meet many of these needs.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Rotary is an international organization of local clubs. Rotary International is comprised of over a million members and is credited with supporting International Polio Prevention efforts and other health projects worldwide. Internationally, Rotarians are also working on COVID prevention, Peace initiatives, providing clean drinking water, and supporting ecological projects in rural and urban areas. Local Rotary clubs provide members with community speakers, and provide networking for local business and community leaders, who work together to provide scholarships and support other local needs.

Paso Robles Rotary Club members Cynthia Anthony and Joe Irick have communicated directly with ECHO to determine real-time needs. Along with the Rotary clubs of Atascadero, Cayucos, Paso Robles Sunrise, and North County Rotaract members have worked together to provide items needed, assembled household item bags and toiletries.

Paso Robles Rotary Club members Joe Irick and Cynthia Anthony, drop off new underwear to ECHO Homeless Shelter. The Drop Your Drawers project collected over 800 pairs of underwear. 

Atascadero Rotary has had a longstanding relationship with ECHO, starting with the ECHO shelter there. They have come together to work on the Empty Bowls fundraiser, providing up to $40,000 each year in pre-pandemic times. Artisans provided handmade bowls, which are auctioned off and filled with soups to benefit local unsheltered families.

Paso Robles Sunrise Rotary has donated small-size toiletries, which are easy to carry and provide unsheltered people a sense of respect and normalcy. They also provide items for dental hygiene.

North County Rotaract is a newly formed Rotary group of young professionals who network and collaborate on community service projects. Their president, Evan Langstaff, reports their contribution to ECHO has been gas cards. Unsheltered residents often live without extra cash, which can prevent them from getting to job interviews, healthcare appointments, or court dates. Missing any of these can result in increased health and financial burdens. Gas cards provide ECHO a way to help their clients maintain independence and normalcy.

Cayucos Rotary has contributed gift cards for food. While ECHO provides a meal service, unhoused clients need food for themselves and their children. Giving them the choice to purchase items they desire ensures they are taking advantage of the gift and provides a sense of normalcy and dignity.

One of the most well-supported needs Rotary has met has been with the “Drop Your Drawers” project. Paso Robles Rotary meets via zoom in our socially distanced world. Using Zoom and other media, they have solicited new underwear of all sizes and shapes to provide to ECHO clients. Members of Paso Rotary, “Drop their Drawers” at local Rotarians businesses, for “hands-free delivery” to Echo clients. Rotarians participating in this include Rick Goree of State Farm Insurance, Jennifer Idler of Idlers Home Paso Robles, and the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce. Over 800 pairs of underwear of all sizes have been donated.

In addition to this project, Paso Robles Rotary volunteers have provided a food warming station for the Paso Cares Meal Service Project. ECHO offers a hot meal at their new location, the former Motel 6 in Paso Robles. Paso Robles Rotary also provided a sanitary utensil cleaning station to service this program, shelves, clothing racks, and a storage shed. Rotarians in all of the involved clubs are excited and happy to be meeting the needs of ECHO and their clients.

The Cayucos, Atascadero, and Paso Robles Sunrise Clubs plan on continuing their avenues of service to the shelter. Paso Robles Rotary and North County Rotaract are planning on providing storage space, meals, and other services.

Rotary welcomes community members to find out more information or to get involved in Rotary’s “Service above Self”. Please go to the Paso Robles Rotary Facebook page at facebook.com/pasoroblesrotaryclub, or contact Community Service Chair Cynthia Anthony at (805)610-0786.